Back in 1995 a concept regarding work style was put out that was a result from technology creating more diverse work environments and solutions. The terminology and how it was defined was left intentionally vague at the time to keep any one person setting “the rules” or limiting the freedom of an evolving work platform. The idea, or better termed work style, is known today as “Coworking”.
With only 20 years of history and philosophy (I use that loosely) behind it, Coworking has evolved into a worldwide movement. It has had a vast impact on economies, business development, and city ecosystems. The progress of Coworking has had direct impact on work environments and whole industries. Some might argue it has influenced a stronger creative economy.
However, the question always gets asked, “What is it?” I think this is better asked as what are the values that can be seen between different spaces that unite them, and continue the movement. Here’s how I see it:
Communnity extends beyond people working around each or near one another. Community reflects a value of care not only for the space but for the individuals that inhabit that space. It carries an underlying idea of a shared purpose not merely a shared job. Sometimes these communities are organized around a similar occupation bringing together industry professionals who can push each other along. Other times the community reflects a diversity of occupations, yet the members wish to learn and grow along side of one another committing themselves to a group. In both cases and others, the value of community must be present.
An important aspect to any community is the ability to be open with one another. SOme cultures struggle with this ideal of being open handed with information and ideas. Coworking looks to combat this way of thinking. For such a value take root, it is important for those invested in the community to know each other and have a sense of trustworthiness among their piers. Those entering the space are not there to outright compete or gain the advantage, but to invest and give to the community. Openness may take time to build, but should always be part of the goals of any Coworking space.
The ability for individuals to work together and collaborate over new projects or existing work is an added benefit of the Coworking environment. Even those working under the same company have difficulty with this, but as people are professional and open with their work, natural collaboration should take place. Those managing the space can help here by encouraging projects that would necessitate collaboration among the members. There have been plenty of examples of new startups and companies forming as a direct result of collaboration within Coworking spaces. Such examples create a positive impact on the community internally and the greater local economy.
There has been a shift in work style which rejects the traditional “work in isolation model” which was demonstrated by offices and even cubicles (I always saw them as cages to peered into by those passing by.) The Coworking value of accessibility rejects this model as well. It pushes the need for people to be accessible. While important ideologically, it may also cause some angst because it entrusts the other members to also be professional in their approach without overbearing. When the members allow themselves to be accessible , it will also build the community.
Ongoing health and development are central tenets of Coworking. It is only valuable if it at a minimum endure, but more so, can bring increasing value to those invested in it. Sustainability in this way is not only financial viability, but ongoing development of the economy culture surrounding it. Sustainability brings financial stability and personal/professional growth among the participating members. For sustainability to happen the members must be invested and active in the development of core values. This is reflected by the investment between members, and demonstrated by the sustainability of the Coworking community.
The core values listed above may not be exhaustive, but they are what I usually see across the Coworking community. They are interdependent for the success of the space. Failure in one area may undermine the others. There’s a necessity to be proactive in developing each value among a local Coworking space. In the future, I will write on how this can be achieved. As we watch this phenomenon grow, it will be exciting to see the potential maximized and realized.
What has been your experience with Coworking? WOuld you try it, recommend it, or avoid it? Share your thoughts on social media and use #diskorsprojekt.